Who better to teach on the law than Paul? After all, he was so zealous in upholding it and enforcing it prior to his conversion experience. There is also the promise of God to Abraham we can’t overlook. The promise came first, and the law didn’t abolish it or change it. “For if the inheritance could be received by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God’s promise. But God graciously gave it to Abraham as a promise.” We read yesterday about how that promise of God now extends to us because of Jesus.
Paul asks a question we are probably all asking, “Why, then, was the law given?” We could probably all give our answer to this question, and scholars across the ages have wrestled with it, too. Simply put, God knew we needed it. I love how Paul gives us the picture of the law being our guardian as we waited for Jesus. As a guardian, the law gave us a measuring stick of our sinfulness. It protected us by giving us rules to live by. It also allowed the mediators and judges to have a basis to rule on “legal” matters. God knew his people would need to have these boundaries to keep them safe from their sinful tendencies and from being weak in the face of temptation.
If Christ has come and fulfilled the law, do we still need the law? Here’s another way to think of it. The law is important to the church today because it shows us our need for a savior. As Paul says, “But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ.” The law is part of the story of God and his people. Jesus Christ is the climax of a story which includes the giving of the law to his ancestors. If we neglect the law we miss the beauty and importance of Jesus’ own roots.
In the law, we see God’s love for his people in wanting to protect them and give them success. This is the same God who loved us so much that he sent his Son. This is the same God who welcomes us all into his family. The law is fulfilled in Jesus. People now find their identity in Jesus rather than the law. That doesn’t mean we throw out the law. On the contrary, we can still use it for instruction. We just see it through a different lens. We are no longer “under the law” because of what Jesus has done. Yet, there is still the wisdom of God for us to glean. For example, the command to love will never be obsolete.
How does it feel to be in unity with one another? Let these words wash over you. “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Read that over several times. What sticks out to you? Being united with Christ?
Paul changes his focus. Did you notice that up to verse 26 he used “we” to be inclusive? The verses above now say “YOU.” It’s a subtle change, but Paul wants to make sure there is no misunderstanding that all of this truly belongs to his readers. Using the word “we” could still somehow exclude us, now there is no doubt.
Take some time today to reflect on what it means to be in unity with Christ.
Let’s pray… Lord, I thank you for your law and how you gave it out of your great love for your people. I am overcome with emotion and gratitude for sending your Son, Jesus to rescue us and unite us as one. Use me to share this message with others and to welcome the transformation you are preparing for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.